What Is Feline Dwarfism?

A few breeds of cat are selectively bred to promote feline dwarfism but it can occur due to a cat having a genetic disorder that's passed onto to their prodigy. Another cause could be an underactive pituitary gland but whatever the cause, quite a lot of kittens with the condition often suffer from health issues which can shorten their lifespans. However, other cats with dwarfism don't have any health problems and live out long and happy lives.

A Genetic Disorder Can Cause Dwarfism

One genetic disorder cats suffer from is Osteochondrodysplasia which affects their bones producing an abnormal development in both bone and cartilage. One parent has to carry the gene in order for a kitten be affected by the disorder. The parent with the osteochondrodysplasia gene may or may not show signs of dwarfism because the symptoms can vary quite a lot. Some cats might have slightly bigger heads than the rest of their bodies or they might have an undershot jaw, crooked teeth or a larger than normal nose.

Very often kittens with the condition may not develop at a typical rate and their joints may seem larger than usual with a spine that curves gently to one side which gives the kitten a lop sided look. Many kittens with dwarfism also have bowed front legs making them appear bandy legged.

Pituitary Dwarfism Explained

Also referred to as hyposomatotrophism, pituitary dwarfism involves a growth hormone that is abnormally produced by a cat's pituitary gland. Fortunately, it is occurs very rarely in cats but if it does, the usual cause of the problem can be any of the following:

  • An underdeveloped pituitary gland
  • Cysts that have formed in the gland
  • Tumours in the pituitary gland
  • Infectious diseases affecting the pituitary gland

A kitten suffering from pituitary dwarfism will not grow at the same rate as their  litter mates. They retain their softer kitten fur too and their teeth develop at a much slower rate. Very often a kitten with pituitary dwarfism will be slower to respond to anything in their environment. However, it is really important for a vet to rule out congenital hypothyroidism before pituitary dwarfism is diagnosed.

Selective Dwarfism Explained

Breeders often choose selective dwarfism when they want to encourage a genetic mutation in the cats they breed. Different breeds like the Munchkin is an example of selective dwarfism which most people know about and recognise. However, other dwarf cats have appeared in the cat world since the eighties with other breeds being crossed with the Munchkin to produce them.

What are the Risks and is There a Treatment?

You would need to offer your vet a full background medical history of your cat so they could carry out  full examination to confirm whether it is  osteochondrodysplasia or pituitary dwarfism that is affecting your cat. Vets will take blood tests in order to rule out any other conditions which may be causing the symptoms before making their diagnosis.

When it comes to osteochondrodysplasia, it really does depend on how severe it is but there is no treatment as such available, Where pituitary dwarfism is the cause, many kittens and cats don't live normal lifespans due to the fact that many of their internal organs develop slowly too and again there is no treatment available for the condition.

On the other hand, selective dwarf breeding in cats is relatively new in the feline world but dwarfism is a direct result of factors that involve genetics, hormonal, endocrinal and environmental issues so these have to be factored in.

Dwarf Cat Breeds

There are many dwarf cat breeds around all of which have names which are just as cute as the cats themselves. This includes the following, some of which are not as well known breeds as others:

  • Munchkin
  • Bambino
  • Dwelf
  • Genetta
  • Kinkalow
  • Lambkins
  • Minskin
  • Skookums

Breeds with dwarfism can do everything any other cat can do and if they can't, they usually find novel and inventive ways of achieving their goals which can be very amusing to watch. Jumping up on things can be an issue and much harder for them to do but they find ways around the problem because just like any other cat – they are clever little creatures.

Below are 6 dwarf breeds that have found their way into many people's hearts and homes

The Munchkin

Munchkins are thought to be the original dwarf breed with many people believing they evolved spontaneously when two pregnant dwarf pussy cats were discovered in Louisiana by a music teacher.  Their personalities are as adorable as their looks and they are particularly fond of anything shiny which they will steal and hide away! Munchkins come in a variety of colours and sizes and all of them are gorgeous creatures to share a home with.

The Bambino

This lovely looking breed is the result of crossing a Munchkin with a Sphynx cat. Kittens can have either short or long legs with the only real difference being the length of their back legs. The breed does not have much of a coat or no coat at all so they are the perfect choice of feline companion for people who suffer from allergies. They are clever, active and very gentle creatures that are just as athletic as they are affectionate. Bambinos love being petted and interacting with people they love.

The Dwelf

The Dwelf is the result of using a Munchkin, a Sphynx cat and the American Curl. They are gorgeous felines which have inherited traits from each of the breeds used to create them. However, each cat is different according to their ancestry. Dwelfs are hairless and boast muscular short bodies and legs which gives them a lovely sturdy look. Their front legs are just slightly shorter than their back legs and they have lovely long whip-like tails. One of the breed's endearing features are their broad ears which they hold upright and which curl inwards towards each other giving the Dwelf an elf-like appeal.

The Fantasy

Fantasies are not as well known as the Munchkin or other dwarf breeds. This adorable looking cat has a short tail and legs. They boast cute curled ears but one of the things that makes them really stand out are the splashes of white fur they have on their bodies and heads. The breed is considered a hybrid having been developed by crossing the Munchkin, American Curl and the domestic tortoiseshell which boasts a naturally short tail. Character-wise, the Fantasy loves being petted and given lots of attention, they are affectionate and very loyal to their owners.

The Genetta

The Genetta is a dwarf cat which breeders have developed to resemble the wild African Genet cat. This lovely dwarf breed first appeared on the scene back in 2006 and were created by crossing Munchkins, Bengals and Savannahs. The breed has short legs but with a long body and muzzle. Their ears are rounded as are their eyes and the tail is longer than the cat's body. When it comes to their coats, these are gorgeous with dark marbling and lovely spotted patterns on a background of lighter coloured fur. Their coats are smooth, thick, short and very soft to the touch.

The Lambkin

Lambkins were developed by using a short-legged Munchkin crossed with a non-dwarf Selkirk Rex curly coat. The breed is still in its infancy stage, but the Lambkin has a long and very soft curly if a little shaggy looking coat which makes them look very much like a baby lamb. The breed has gorgeous blue eyes and strikingly long tails. Lambkins are one of the smallest of the dwarf breeds but they are very capable of jumping up on things despite this. They boast being adorable and affectionate felines with very laid-back personalities which makes them a very popular choice as a family pet.


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